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The Game Has Changed for Leaders – How I learned the hard way

By Steve Cadigan

Have you ever faced a situation where you were suddenly and profoundly “rocked” by new information and your world-view changed in an instant? I want to relay a story to you about when I was confronted with a ‘new reality’ that hit me so hard I was forced to admit I was ill equipped to succeed as a leader in today’s world.


A few years ago I was interviewing for VP of Talent at LinkedIn. It was the summer of 2009 and LinkedIn was barely 6 years old, and hardly known outside of Silicon Valley. I met the entire Exec team over two days, and, in an effort to show the LinkedIn Execs that despite being older than most of them, I was so cool with social media and social networks, I sent personalized thank you notes to each of them in the form of an invitation to ‘join my LinkedIn network’. I was quite proud of myself for thinking that a thank you combined with a LinkedIn invite would show them I was not only adept at using their product, but I was also being smart by not cluttering their inboxes with two emails (a thank you and an invite). That evening, I was thrilled to see that every Exec had accepted my invite, and I was convinced this was a good sign that I was a top candidate. But my excitement did not last for more than 12 hours, and, my world was about to change.


The next morning I awoke to see that LinkedIn had sent a communication to my entire network announcing that I was now connected to the CEO, CFO, Founder, VP Marketing, the CGO, VP Corp Dev, VP International, and the Heads of the Sales organizations. At about the same time I saw this, my phone rang and it was my current boss. Her first words stopped me cold in my tracks: “I KNOW you are interviewing at LinkedIn!” she exclaimed with vigor. In that moment of horror, I knew if I did not get the job at LinkedIn, I was in for a rough ride at my current company.


Thankfully, I got the job at LinkedIn, BUT, as important to me was the lesson that the experience provided me: the world had changed and I was using tools that I really did not understand how to use properly. While I wanted to impress the LinkedIn Execs, I got way ahead of my skis and learned a tough lesson the hard way. Today, we are using so many new systems to communicate and interact with an increasingly transparent world. Our actions AND in-actions on social networks are sending signals and providing insight to others that can work for or against us depending on our understanding and familiarization with these new platforms.


While I am still on my journey of learning how to optimize these new tools and trying to understand what it means to be a leader in this transparent reality, it amazes me how few leaders today are thinking about their social profile or recognizing how what they post, or what they don’t post matters. If you believe, as I do, that candidates today join bosses as much as they join a company, then you need to ask yourself if you are filling the social channels with information that represents you in the most authentic and best possible light. If you are wary of using these new tools then think about soliciting some help or asking someone you know who is proficient at them.


This new transparent world is a huge opportunity for leaders to show the best of them and their organizations. Take the time to understand it and make it work for you.

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